LANDI KOTAL, Jan 24: The political administration of Khyber Agency on Thursday secured release of 24 persons, who were arrested from Bara on different occasion during the ongoing military operation.

The released men were handed over to the members of a jirga during their meeting with political agent at his office. The jirga comprising local tribal elders and representatives of various political parties and traders had demanded of the administration to release all innocent tribesmen belonging to different tribes of Bara.

The jirga had earlier provided the authorities with a list of all those people whom they considered innocent and were in the captivity of security forces or the local administration.

Sources said that releasing the tribesmen was a goodwill gesture and a follow up of the negotiations started between the government functionaries after the January 15 Alamgudar incident wherein 18 persons were killed by unidentified gunmen.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar had promised the jirga, which was formed to defuse tension caused by protesters who had placed the coffins of the killed men outside Governor’s House a day after the tragedy, that all their legitimate demands would be fulfilled. The governor had instructed the Khyber Agency administration to hold meaningful dialogue with the jirga.

So far two rounds of the talks have taken place between the political agent and the jirga, but not to the satisfaction of a majority of the jirga members. There is a deadlock in the negotiations as the jirga demands reopening of Bara Bazaar and end to artillery shelling by security forces. The jirga members say that scores of innocent people, mostly women and children, have been killed in the shelling.

The administration during Thursday’s meeting once again told the jirga to guarantee security of Bara Bazaar after withdrawal of forces. However, the jirga members were reluctant to take the responsibility of ensuring peace at Bara Bazaar in the absence of security forces and Khasadar Force.

It was also learnt that the political agent rejected a suggestion of the jirga to establish contact with the Bara-based banned militant group Lashkar-i-Islam. He told the jirga in clear words that no dialogue would be held with any militant or terrorist group.

“The administration would take every possible step to ensure safety of citizens of Bara and would also continue to talk to them but not to the militants,” Political Agent Mutahir Zeb told the jirga, according to a source. Meanwhile, scores of families residing in Dorga and surrounding localities vacated their houses and moved to safer places after security forces issued them notices to vacate the area.

Sources said that security forces distributed pamphlets and gathered the local residents and ordered them to leave the area immediately. Though there was no official word about the fresh orders yet local sources said that they were told by the forces that the action was taken to avoid collateral damage during artillery shelling on the hideouts of militants.

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